Our first stop on our trip to Myanmar was Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar with a population of 1.2 Million. Some of the highlights of Mandalay started with a visit to the night market.
Filled with all kinds of exotic fruits, vegetables and fish, it runs only at night so that the produce and fish are always freshly delivered from port. Shop owners from all around visit this market to buy for their stores.
Another highlight of our stop in Mandalay was a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda, also called the Mahamuni Buddha Temple. This pagoda is home to one of the country’s most revered Buddha images which, over the years, have been covered with gold leaf giving it an almost ‘lumpy’ texture.
Just across the Irrawaddy River, Sagaing is home to over 600 white painted Pagodas and Monasteries. This is the religious center of Myanmar with over 3000 monks and 100 meditation centers.
For the perfect way to end this portion of the journey, we visited Mandalay Hill at sunset for a spectacular view and wonderful photos!
Our next stop was Bagan, my absolute favorite! On the first day, we started our tour with our own Vespas - such a fun, unique way to experience the city. It also allowed us to visit the ancient pagodas easily. Beginning with a ride along New Bagan’s main road; we eventually passed through Tharabar Gate, venturing into the archaeological zone. We visited a few of Bagan’s main temples including Dhammayangyi - the largest built by King Narathu in the 12th century, and Ananda - famous for its four Buddha images. We climbed to the top of the temple for an incredible view of the pagodas in the distance.
After our bike ride we continued by bus to Shwe Hlaing. The people here make their living producing various items from the toddy palm trees. We observed traditional production of palm toddy—from the collecting of the liquid to the creating of the drinks and sugars.
A couple of hours before sunset, we went on a leisurely ride by horse cart throughout the Bagan archeological area. We went through the village to see how the locals live and stopped at an elevated temple where we got fantastic views of the sunset with the most amazing back drop.
From Bagan we flew to Heho to begin our journey to Inle Lake. We arrived in the morning in time to visit the Nyaung Shwe morning market where locals gather every morning to buy and sell fresh produce from the lake and its surroundings.
We continued by local trishaw down to the bustling canal, a hive of activity in the morning as boats from the lake come in to unload tomatoes and other vegetables for distribution to the markets around the country. We watched as baskets laden with produce were transferred from boats to trucks and bikes.
We hopped back on the trishaw for a stop at the ‘tomato house’, a warehouse-like structure where the tomatoes are sorted and priced for sale. I have never seen so many tomatoes!
The next morning, we boarded boats for the ride to Inle Lake. It was about a one hour ride by boat to reach our destination. Once we arrived we took turns kayaking through the canals of Inle Lake, passing by stilted homes and lake side pagodas. This was the first time that the locals were taking our pictures instead of the reverse! I don’t think they had ever seen people kayaking thru the Canals before. We visited a local village and had tea with the locals, and we also got to view the various industries in the area.
From here we left the Kayaks behind and took the motor boats down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of In Dein. We explored the area on foot, strolling around the village and wandering through the beautiful Alaung Sitthou area. One of the most amazing things that I saw in Inle Lake is how they grow the tomatoes right in the lake, it was fantastic!
From Inle Lake we flew to the largest city in Myanmar, Yangon. This city has a population of over 5 million. Unfortunatly we really did not have enough time here. The major site is the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, the local legend states that the original structure was built 2500 years ago then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas. We visited this just prior to sunset - watching this as the sun set was really an awesome experience.
Our time in Myanmar was coming to an end. I truly enjoyed my visit to Myanmar and really loved the people of Myanmar. While my trip was by land, I think the best way to visit Myanmar is by River Cruise. There are numerous luxury cruise lines to consider, such as AmaWaterways, Belmond and Sanctuary. These all combine the cruise with a land stay for the ultimate combination of experiencing the wonders of Myanmar while still enjoying the luxury of the ship.
Click below to view river cruises through Myanmar, and contact me to book!